What do you mean you’re “in recovery”? Why aren’t you healed?

Recovery is more than just living without addiction. Recovery involves heart, soul, mind, and strength.

If you follow along with nationally recognized months, you know that the point of them is to raise awareness around a certain topic.

September is National Recovery month

And I might have a few things to say about recovery… It’s been in the subtitle of this blog since 2011, and it’s something we live daily.

Recovery is so much a part of our lives, I sometimes don’t know where to begin. But the question in the title of this post is as good a place as any. Because sometimes “recovery” in the context of addiction and mental health carries baggage.

I used to think the idea of recovery was derided only in certain faith communities. But over the last decade of study and experience, I’ve noticed that skepticism isn’t limited to church people.

The word recovery conjures images of 12 Step meetings and therapists’ couches, and while that’s not wrong, it’s limiting. There isn’t just one route to recovery.

Recovery is simply the healing process

Most humans understand that healing is a process. We may be sympathetic, or even empathetic — even if at times we feel impatient — up to a year out from trauma. But beyond that? We really want people to snap out of it. And, if we’re honest, we start to think something is wrong with a person if they don’t.

Dave and I have had many discussions about recovery this year as we’ve had the opportunity to share our story through Guideposts and other avenues.  I started going to the recovery group he leads at our church, after a few years away from it, and I’m facilitating a women’s group as a part of it.

Dave’s been clean almost 11 years, which is a major victory after been a prescription drug addict for 15 years. Our life today is so, so changed from what it was a decade ago. He’s transformed. And yet, he always introduces himself in the group as “an addict in recovery from pills.”

I didn’t like this at first. It grated on me.  “Don’t you think, after all these years, that you’re finally healed?” I asked. We talked about it for days.

But Dave still says he’s in recovery from addiction because it’s true. And as much as I wish sometimes it wasn’t, I know and believe there are some wounds that not only don’t just disappear, they may not heal completely in this life. I understand it because I have a wound or two like that myself. Whether you call it that or not, you might, too.

There are wounds that Don’t fully heal

We understand this in the physical realm — with the wounds we can see. If you break your leg, for example, you may have a long recovery that involves surgery, traction, and rehabilitation through physical therapy. Your recovery process would depend on the severity of the trauma, your age, and your participation in the exercises you’re prescribed.

In some cases, a patient may never fully recover their former strength or walk. They’ll always have a limp.

Not only that, but former habits change as well. Maybe they don’t climb mountains anymore because walking on an incline for more than a mile knocks them out for weeks. The recovery time takes too much of a toll.

When I think of Dave’s recovery in the context of trauma like that, I get it.  His life was literally changed forever by 15 years of drug abuse and addiction –and all its wonderful side effects. And so was mine, and so was our family’s.

For starters,

  • Dave can’t take pain meds like regular people, which makes medical procedures more complicated
  • He has holes in his memory and sometimes skips words when he’s speaking and doesn’t realize it
  • He feels weird every time he walks into a doctor’s office or pharmacy because it’s where he got drugs

This doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Recovery is more than just living without pills…

Recovery involves heart, soul, mind, and strength. It has its roots in hope, but it deals in reality.

The SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has a working definition of recovery, as shown in the graphic above. It includes: health, home, purpose, and community.

I love this. It’s the stuff Dave and I talk about all the time. And we get to talk about it with you right here all month.